Woman reveals how pregnancy triggered a rare condition that made her blind temporarily
Watch: Mum tells how pregnancy brought on a "terrifying" rare condition - which made her go blind
A mum has revealed how pregnancy brought on a rare condition, which left her suffering temporary blindness.
When she was approximately halfway through her pregnancy Amie Bridson, 36, from Chester, woke up one morning and found her vision had completely gone.
Thankfully after medical help, her sight returned three days later, but having a C-Section in April 2020 to welcome her son, Oscar, now three, seemed to trigger the condition again.
She spent the first few weeks post-pregnancy coping with distorted vision and three years later, her eyesight is still impacted.
"Doctors told me I'd developed this unexplained medical condition which predominantly impacts my sight," the business manager explains.
"I've had to deal with it ever since."
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On Christmas Day in 2019, midway through her pregnancy, Bridson went to sleep with her vision completely normal, but the next morning she woke up unable to see out of either eye.
The now mum-of-two recalls desperately rubbing her eyes and splashing them with water in the hope her vision would return.
She spent the whole of Boxing Day unable to see, before making an emergency appointment with the opticians the next day.
There, she was given the terrifying news that if she didn't go to hospital within the next few hours she could lose her sight forever.
"The optician told me the optic nerve in the back of my eye was severely swollen, and the intercranial pressure was causing sight loss," she explains.
"But they didn't know why – all they knew was I needed to go to hospital immediately, so they called for an ambulance.
"Their initial diagnosis ultimately saved my sight," she adds.
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At the hospital Bridson underwent multiple scans and a lumber puncture, with tests confirming the high pressure in her skull was due to excess cerebrospinal fluid.
She was later diagnosed with Idiopathic Intercranial Hypertension (IIH).
Doctors believe this could have resulted from the increased hormones during pregnancy, but they are unable to say for sure.
While she regained her vision three days later, after surgeons regulated the pressure in her skull, her C-section in April 2020 triggered the condition again causing Bridson's vision to become distorted for weeks.
"I was told I needed a caesarean as the pushing that comes with regular birth would exert too much pressure on my brain," she explains.
"But during the operation I felt my vision going again and suddenly everything I was looking at was at a right angle."
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Bridson says her vision remained that way for two weeks after welcoming her son, Oscar, now three.
"It was the most horrific experience of my life," she says.
"The doctors were able to release the pressure again and I was eventually discharged, but the effects of IIH are permanent."
"IIH affects less than two percent of the population, so I want to share my story to raise awareness, and support others suffering from this life-changing condition," she adds.
"It's like living with a brain tumour without actually having a tumour, and at the moment there's no cure," she continues.
"The constant symptoms are a loud drumming and pulsing in the ear, pressure headaches, fullness in the head, neck ache, and balance issues.
"I've returned to hospital twice when it's felt like my vision was going again, but was told both times to just wait it out."
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Bridson has decided to share her story to shine a light on the condition and let other's living with IIH know that they aren't alone.
"IIH affects less than two percent of the population, so I wanted to share my story to raise awareness, and support others suffering from this life-changing condition," she adds.
What is Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension?
The NHS explains that Intracranial hypertension (IH) is a build-up of pressure around the brain.
It can happen suddenly, for example, as the result of a severe head injury, stroke or brain abscess. This is known as acute IH.
It can also be a persistent, long-lasting problem, known as chronic IH, but this is rare.
In many cases, the cause of chronic IH is unclear. This is known as idiopathic IH, or sometimes benign IH.
It mainly affects women in their 20s and 30s, and according to the NHS has been linked with:
being overweight or obese – most cases happen in overweight women, although it's not clear why
hormone problems such as Cushing's syndrome, hypoparathyroidism, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
certain medicines including some antibiotics, steroids and the combined contraceptive pill
a lack of red blood cells (iron deficiency anaemia) or too many red blood cells (polycythaemia)
chronic kidney disease
lupus – a problem with the immune system
But these are only linked with idiopathic IH, they're not necessarily causes.
Symptoms of chronic intracranial hypertension (IH) can include: a constant throbbing headache, temporary loss of vision – your vision may become dark or 'greyed out' for a few seconds at a time; this can be triggered by coughing, sneezing or bending down, feeling and being sick, feeling sleepy and irritable.
Chronic IH can sometimes result in permanent vision loss, although treatment can help to reduce the chances of this happening.
Treatments for Chronic IH can include stopping any medicine that may be causing your symptoms, including contraception methods, medicine to remove excess fluid from the body (diuretics), medicine to reduce the production of cerebrospinal fluid in your brain, steroid medication and lumbar punctures to remove excess fluid from the spine and help reduce pressure on your brain.
Surgery may be considered if other treatments do not help.
While Idiopathic IH is not usually life-threatening, it can be a lifelong problem and though many people find their symptoms are relieved with treatment, the symptoms can return.
There's also a risk of vision loss, even though treatment can help reduce this risk.
Permanent vision loss is estimated to happen to one in every five to 20 people with idiopathic IH.
Find out more about living with IH at the IIH UK website.
Additional reporting SWNS.